At a Glance

History Matters

Watch a scholar interpret letters from labor activist and reformer Sarah Bagley.

Scholars in Action: Analyzing 19th-Century Letters

Scholars In Action presents case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence. These letters were written by labor activist, reformer, and entrepreneur Sarah Bagley in 1846 and 1848 to Angelique Martin, a prominent reformer and champion of women's rights. Bagley advocated on behalf of the young female workers employed in textile mills in Lowell, Massachusetts, and elsewhere in New England, and was also involved in campaigns for women's rights. Her career, and these letters, reflect the ways that movements for women's rights, factory workers' rights, and the abolition of slavery intertwined in the 1840s and 1850s, including debates comparing the working and living conditions of slaves to those of northern factory workers.